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No price hike, no extra buses for Raya. That’s essentially what the boss of Malaysia’s largest express bus company is saying.

Konsortium Transnasional Bhd (KTB) MD Tan Sri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh said the high demand for inter-state bus tickets might be taken over by other operators who would charge higher rates for passengers leaving KL.

“There will be a problem in terms of buses. We need to increase fares to deploy more buses. If the government doesn’t allow this, rogue operators will charge higher prices,” he told The Star.

Nadzmi explained that KTB normally added over 100 express buses to meet demand, in addition to the usual 300 on normal days. Bus companies would run at a loss during Raya as buses would leave KL every day full, but return near empty. He added that KTB needed 70% capacity to break even, and that it already owed “millions of ringgit” to creditors.

SMRT-Bus-SingaporeJohor is reportedly losing its bus drivers to Singapore, where the basic pay can be more than RM4,000

Earlier, it was reported that some bus operators found it hard to get their drivers, who are mostly Muslim, to work during Hari Raya. They said a 20% express bus fare hike would help them cover costs, which is claimed to have risen by about 35% over the past seven years. Some bus drivers have also packed their bags for Singapore, which offers higher pay.

Bus operators are also urging the government to deregulate express bus fares, like with school buses since January this year, if they are not willing to increase fares. A fare deregulation will open up a free market where operators come up with their own prices and compete with each other to attract passengers.

In March this year, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) announced a price hike for both taxis and express bus services. The government gave the green light for taxis, but postponed a fare hike for express buses.

SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said he was aware of the problems faced by express bus operators, and that a paper calling for a fare surcharge had already been sent to the Cabinet secretariat. “We understand the problem and we think there is a black market. But there’s nothing we can do until the Cabinet decides,” he said.